The Legislature finds that equestrian activities are engaged in by a large number of citizens of West Virginia and that such activities also attract to West Virginia a large number of nonresidents, significantly contributing to the economy of West Virginia. Since it is recognized that there are inherent risks in equestrian activities which should be understood by participants therein and which are essentially impossible for the operators of equestrian businesses to eliminate, it is the purpose of this article to define those areas of responsibility and those affirmative acts for which the operators of equestrian businesses shall be liable for loss, damage or injury suffered by participants, and to further define those risks which the participants expressly assume and for which there can be no recovery.
In this article, unless a different meaning plainly is required:
(1) "Equestrian activity" means any sporting event or other activity involving a horse or horses, including, but not limited to:
(A) Shows, fairs, competitions, performances or parades;
(B) Any of the equine disciplines such as dressage, hunter and jumper shows, grand prix jumping, three day events, combined training, rodeos, driving, western games and hunting;
(C) Rides, trips or hunts;
(D) Riding classes, therapeutic riding programs, school and college sponsored classes and programs, or other classes in horsemanship;
(E) The boarding or keeping of horses; and
(F) Providing equipment or tack.
(2) "Horseman" or "operator of a horseman's business" means any individual, sole proprietorship, partnership, association, public or private corporation, the United States or any federal agency, this state or any political subdivision of this state, and any other legal entity which engages, with or without compensation, in organizing, promoting, presenting or providing equestrian activities or in providing facilities for equestrian activities.
(3) "Horse" means each animal of the horse kind, in every
class or breed of horses, and, without limitation or exception, all
members of the genus Equus and family Equidae.
(4) "Participant" means any person using the services or facilities of a horseman so as to be directly involved in an equestrian activity.
Every horseman shall:
(1) Make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of a participant to safely engage in the equestrian activity, to determine the ability of the horse to behave safely with the participant, and to determine the ability of the participant to safely manage, care for and control the particular horse involved;
(2) Make known to any participant any dangerous traits or characteristics or any physical impairments or conditions related to a particular horse which is involved in the equestrian activity of which the horseman knows or through the exercise of due diligence could know;
(3) Make known to any participant any dangerous condition as to land or facilities under the lawful possession and control of the horseman of which the horseman knows or through the exercise of due diligence could know, by advising the participant in writing or by conspicuously posting warning signs upon the premises;
(4) In providing equipment or tack to a participant, make reasonable and prudent efforts to inspect such equipment or tack to assure that it is in proper working condition and safe for use in the equestrian activity;
(5) Prepare and present to each participant or prospective participant, for his or her inspection and signature, a statement which clearly and concisely explains the liability limitations, restrictions and responsibilities set forth in this article.
It is recognized that equestrian activities are hazardous to participants, regardless of all feasible safety measures which can be taken.
Each participant in an equestrian activity expressly assumes the risk of and legal responsibility for any injury, loss or damage to person or property which results from participation in an equestrian activity. Each participant shall have the sole individual responsibility for knowing the range of his or her own ability to manage, care for, and control a particular horse or perform a particular equestrian activity, and it shall be the duty of each participant to act within the limits of the participant's own ability, to maintain reasonable control of the particular horse or horses at all times while participating in an equestrian activity, to heed all posted warnings, to perform equestrian activities only in an area or in facilities designated by the horseman and to refrain from acting in a manner which may cause or contribute to the injury of anyone. If while actually riding in an equestrian event, any participant collides with any object or person, except an obviously intoxicated person of whom the horseman is aware, or if the participant falls from the horse or from a horse-drawn conveyance, the responsibility for such collision or fall shall be solely that of the participant or participants involved and not that of the horseman.
A participant involved in an accident shall not depart from the area or facility where the equestrian activity took place without leaving personal identification, including name and address, or without notifying the proper authorities, or without obtaining assistance when that person knows or reasonably should know that any other person involved in the accident is in need of medical or other assistance.
(a) A horseman shall be liable for injury, loss or damage caused by failure to follow the duties set forth in section three of this article where the violation of duty is causally related to the injury, loss or damage suffered. A horseman shall not be liable for any injury, loss or damage caused by the negligence of any person who is not an agent or employee of such horseman.
(b) A horseman shall be liable for acts or omissions which constitute gross negligence or willful and wanton conduct which is the proximate cause of injury to a participant.
(c) A horseman shall be liable for an intentional injury which he or she inflicts upon a participant.
(d) Every horseman shall carry public liability insurance in limits of no less than one hundred thousand dollars per person, three hundred thousand dollars per occurrence and ten thousand dollars for property damage.
Any participant shall be liable for injury, loss or damage resulting from violations of the duties set forth in section four of this article.
The provisions of this article do not apply to the horse racing industry that is regulated by the provisions of article twenty-three, chapter nineteen of this code.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2016 Regular Session
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